Tara Bowie Rob Showell, president of the South Similkameen Museum Society, stands in front of the packing house display at the new museum. The museum will open July 1.

Museum moves ahead with July 1 opening

Renovations at the museum in Keremeos are almost complete

It’s been a long haul, but volunteers at the museum are rounding the final corner and expect the new building to be open to the public for July 1.

Rob Showell, president of the South Similkameen Museum Society, said work on a large ramp for the front door of the building is well underway, new accessible washrooms on both floors are complete, and displays are planned and being worked on.

“There’s been a group of three or four people who have literally been here five or six days a week for months. The dedication to history and the museum in this community is quite phenomenal,” he said.

The museum society bought the old Masonic Lodge on 9th Avenue in July 2016. Since then, the volunteer group has worked to upgrade the new, larger building, to operate as the main gallery for the museum.

At one point the museum society thought it might operate the new building and the old building on 6th Avenue, which was the original jail and at one time the village office. But, Showell said, realistically the society cannot – at least for this year.

“We have three summer students this year that will work 30 hours a week and we need them to be at the new museum running that and helping with labelling and organizing. We thought perhaps we could use volunteers to help run the two sites when needed, but we really have been working hard to get this up and running so we need some time. It was a little ambitious of us to think we could run both sites,” he said.

Showell also said it was too ambitious of a task for the society to hold an open house on June 16.

The society recently told the Review a sneak peak of the museum and recognition night was to happen mid-June, but Showell said that is now going to be rescheduled to July or perhaps August.

“We still have a lot to do here to get it ready for the opening day on July 1, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to push through to get it sort of ready and clean it all up for the 16th and then have to go back to finishing things. We do plan to hold something. We just don’t know when quite yet.”

The spacious gallery gives the museum a chance to showcase a lot of the collection in a fun room-by-room type of display. The new space includes a variety of exhibits from a packing house, mine shaft, barnyard, barber shop, kitchen, and more. Some of the exhibit ‘sets’ were designed and created by the Cawston Players. There is also an homage to the local Masons chapter including a display case, bible and pictures. There will even be a space for people to take a look at the digitized pieces that UBC did last year.

“Our head of design is Della Barrett. She gets a lot of credit for her creative ideas on displaying all of this. It’s wonderful to see it (collection) all coming out of boxes and getting a chance to be spread out so can people can actually see the history,” he said.

New acquisitions are taking place and volunteers are working to find room for things people want to donate to the museum. Showell said the society would like to see more First Nations history at the museum and is hoping to bring the case over from the old museum.

More volunteers at the museum are always welcome. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Showell by email at rwshowell@gmail.com.

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